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What You Need to Know About FHO Surgery in Dogs and Cats

What You Need to Know About FHO Surgery in Dogs and Cats

FHO surgery can be an effective way to treat hip problems and restore pain-free mobility in some pets. In today's post, our Des Moines vets describe how a pet's hip works, problems that could affect your pet's hip, and what’s involved in FHO surgery.

Why Your Pet May Have Hip Problems

Hip problems in pets can occur due to genetics, old age, injury, or a combination of both of those factors.

  • Hip dysplasia is typically a genetic disorder. Hip dysplasia causes your pet's hip joints to develop abnormally.
  • Legg-Perthes disease is another condition that can affect your pets' hips. This condition is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the top of the femur, leading to the spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, resulting in arthritis and/or hip damage.
These relatively common conditions can cause mobility issues and pain for your pet. To correct the issue, orthopedic surgery may be recommended.

How Your Pet's Hip Joints Should Work

Your pet’s hip joints function as a ball and socket mechanism. The ball is located at the head of the thigh bone (femur) and rests inside the hip bone’s acetabulum (socket portion of the hip joint).

During the normal hip function, the ball and socket work together allowing easy and pain-free movement. When injury or disease breaks down or disrupts your pet’s normal hip function, pain and other mobility issues can result due to rubbing and grinding between the two parts. Inflammation caused by a poorly functioning or damaged hip joint can also reduce your pet’s mobility and quality of life.

If you have a small pet, FHO - femoral head ostectomy - orthopedic surgery may be able to ease your pet's pain and restore your pet's normal pain-free mobility.

Hip Conditions in Dogs That May Benefit from FHO Surgery

Numerous hip conditions in pets can benefit from FHO surgery, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Severe arthritis
  • Joint dislocation (luxation)
  • Hip fractures
  • Legg-Perthes disease
  • Weak muscles in hind legs

That said, not all pets are suitable for this surgery. To be a candidate for FHO surgery, your pet must weigh less than 50 lbs. A smaller pet’s weight will work to their advantage in this scenario since the false joint that will form after surgery can more easily support a smaller body compared to a larger or overweight pet.

Signs That Your Dog May Have Hip Issues

Your pet may be suffering from a hip problem if they show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • “Bunny hopping”
  • Limping when walking
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Decreased tolerance or motivation to exercise or play

Dog FHO Surgery

During the FHO surgery, the surgeon will remove the femoral head leaving the socket portion of the hip empty. Your pet's leg muscles will initially hold the femur in place as scar tissue develops between the femur and the acetabulum. Gradually over some time, a “false joint” will begin to form and scar tissue will act as a cushion between the femur and the acetabulum.

FHO Surgery - Recovery

Every pet is different. Following surgery, your pet may need to stay in the veterinary hospital for several hours or several days for post-surgical care. The duration of your pet's stay will depend upon your pet's overall health and several other factors. Recovery from FHO surgery usually happens in two phases:

Phase 1

In the days immediately following surgery, you and your vet will focus on controlling pain with medications such as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These will help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling at the surgical site.

Your pet should avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery, and most pets will require about six weeks to recover. Your pet won't be allowed to run or jump during their recovery period, however, you can take your pet for short 'on-leash' walks. 

If your pet is not in too much pain, your vet may recommend passive range of motion exercises to encourage your pet's hip joint to move through its natural range of motion once again.

Phase 2

Approximately one week after surgery, the second phase of recovery begins and will involve gradually increasing physical activity so your pet can rebuild muscle mass and strengthen the hip joint.

Gradually increasing physical activity helps to prevent scar tissue from becoming too stiff, and will improve your pet's long-term mobility. Appropriate exercise in this phase may include walking upstairs independently, or walking on hind legs while you hold their front legs in the air.

After about a month, if your pet has recovered adequately, your pooch should be ready to resume regular physical activity. That said, high-impact activity should still be avoided at this time.

A mobility aid or pet lift harness may be useful throughout the Phase 2 healing process. Pets who were relatively active before surgery tend to recover more quickly thanks to the increased strength of muscle mass around the hip joint.

Caring For Your Pet After FHO Surgery

Care requirements will vary depending on your pet’s circumstances and needs. If your pet does not fully recover within the typical six-week recovery period, formal physical rehabilitation therapy may be recommended. If your pet seems to be in pain or is not doing as well as expected following FHO surgery, contact your veterinarian right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pet needs orthopedic surgery contact Des Moines vets to find out how you can schedule an appointment today.

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Des Moines Veterinary Hospital welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Des Moines companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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